Kenya’s strategy in Somalia has always beensomething of a gamble, with a prudentmilitary approach married to a more riskypolitical arrangement. The success of theformer, however, should not blind theGovernment to the inherent dangers of thelatter.As we warned in the first week of April lastyear, when this newspaper reportedexclusively about differences between Kenya,Uganda and Ethiopia over how to bringstability to Somalia, the plan to intervenepolitically in southern Somalia will complicatethe search for stability in the war-torncountry and put Kenyan soldiers at risk.Therefore, all actions on this front must beweighed carefully and with an eye to gettingKenya disentangled from Somalia at theearliest convenience.A decision to prop up armed militias from aleading clan in the years before ‘OperationLinda Nchi’, the Kenya Defence Forces’ entryinto Somalia, created competing centres ofpower opposed by both Al-Shabaab and theTransitional Federal Government then inpower. Internal rivalry among these allies insouthern Somalia was a challenge to jointoperations against the Al-Qaeda linked terrorgroup.President Kibaki’s Government managed towalk carefully through the minefields thissituation presented, by securing the port cityof Kismayu from Islamic militants andrehatting as part of the African Union Missionin Somalia, (Amisom). Sadly, things have taken a turn for the worsein the months since Al-Shabaab was routed.The power struggles and differences overpolitical strategy risk that risked battlefieldprogress have been traded for an alleged‘proxy war’ between Mogadishu-backedmilitiamen and forces loyal to AhmedMohamed Islam, the leader of the Jubalandadministration Kenya insisted on creating as a‘buffer state’.The fears of Somalia being “carved up intospheres of influence” seems to ring true of atleast this part of the country. After a series ofconfrontations between Somalia’s newnational government and KDF, Mogadishu isapparently demanding Kenya’s removal fromthe region.Al-Shabaab remnants and clan militias backedby Mogadishu to oppose Jubaland’s leaderare also rallying people against Kenya. One ofthe hot button issues they point to is thealleged harassment of military andgovernment officials sent from Mogadishu.While the details of these matters remainobscured, we trust that Kenyan troops wouldnot violate their rules of engagement underthe Amisom mandate and expose themselvesand the country to greater political risk fromthe Jubaland adventure.Let us not forget the political missteps madeso far. One of the strongest criticisms of theJubaland project was that it was seen asdominated by members of the Ogaden clan.In the final years of the Siad Barre regime,the Ogaden and Marehan controlled theregion, but many Harti, Darod, Hawiye, Dirand Rahanweyn have since moved there.Many in Somalia fear it would produce anadministration controlled by Kenya. (It wasthe opposition to this political strategy thatapparently informed the alleged Al-Shabaabplot to assassinate former Defence MinisterYusuf Haji and Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim,who are both Kenyan Somalis from Ogadensub-clans.

Kenya’s strategy in Somalia has always been
something of a gamble, with a prudent
military approach married to a more risky
political arrangement. The success of the
former, however, should not blind the
Government to the inherent dangers of the
latter.
As we warned in the first week of April last
year, when this newspaper reported
exclusively about differences between Kenya,
Uganda and Ethiopia over how to bring
stability to Somalia, the plan to intervene
politically in southern Somalia will complicate
the search for stability in the war-torn
country and put Kenyan soldiers at risk.
Therefore, all actions on this front must be
weighed carefully and with an eye to getting
Kenya disentangled from Somalia at the
earliest convenience.
A decision to prop up armed militias from a
leading clan in the years before ‘Operation
Linda Nchi’, the Kenya Defence Forces’ entry
into Somalia, created competing centres of
power opposed by both Al-Shabaab and the
Transitional Federal Government then in
power. Internal rivalry among these allies in
southern Somalia was a challenge to joint
operations against the Al-Qaeda linked terror
group.
President Kibaki’s Government managed to
walk carefully through the minefields this
situation presented, by securing the port city
of Kismayu from Islamic militants and
rehatting as part of the African Union Mission
in Somalia, (Amisom).
Sadly, things have taken a turn for the worse
in the months since Al-Shabaab was routed.
The power struggles and differences over
political strategy risk that risked battlefield
progress have been traded for an alleged
‘proxy war’ between Mogadishu-backed
militiamen and forces loyal to Ahmed
Mohamed Islam, the leader of the Jubaland
administration Kenya insisted on creating as a
‘buffer state’.
The fears of Somalia being “carved up into
spheres of influence” seems to ring true of at
least this part of the country. After a series of
confrontations between Somalia’s new
national government and KDF, Mogadishu is
apparently demanding Kenya’s removal from
the region.
Al-Shabaab remnants and clan militias backed
by Mogadishu to oppose Jubaland’s leader
are also rallying people against Kenya. One of
the hot button issues they point to is the
alleged harassment of military and
government officials sent from Mogadishu.
While the details of these matters remain
obscured, we trust that Kenyan troops would
not violate their rules of engagement under
the Amisom mandate and expose themselves
and the country to greater political risk from
the Jubaland adventure.
Let us not forget the political missteps made
so far. One of the strongest criticisms of the
Jubaland project was that it was seen as
dominated by members of the Ogaden clan.
In the final years of the Siad Barre regime,
the Ogaden and Marehan controlled the
region, but many Harti, Darod, Hawiye, Dir
and Rahanweyn have since moved there.
Many in Somalia fear it would produce an
administration controlled by Kenya. (It was
the opposition to this political strategy that
apparently informed the alleged Al-Shabaab
plot to assassinate former Defence Minister
Yusuf Haji and Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim,
who are both Kenyan Somalis from Ogaden
sub-clans.

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